Tag Archive | "councilwoman anna throne-holst"

Starting a Dialogue on Immigration Reform

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In recent years, immigration on the East End has become a contentious, and often polarizing, issue. Each side — whether it be those who wish to see every undocumented immigrant deported or those who wish to see amnesty for all undocumented immigrants — continues to fight a fierce rhetorical argument against one another. Hoping to bridge the gap between these two groups, US Congressman Tim Bishop, Southampton Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst and New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele teamed up to host a forum titled “Immigration in the Hamptons: Beginning a Community Dialogue” on Friday, March 13, at the Southampton Senior Center in Hampton Bays.

While people waved American flags and held up signs saying “Deport Illegals” outside, Bishop told the audience the current status quo of community relations towards immigrants residing in the East End was “unacceptable.”

“I hope we can come to an understanding … and cut through the ugliness [surrounding this issue] to talk in a civil and respectful fashion,” continued Bishop.

He went on to say that while the federal government has focused much of its efforts on border patrol, internal enforcement of immigration laws have been neglected and the visa program is in disrepair. Bishop hopes the federal government will adopt an “earned citizenship” program for the 12 to 15 million undocumented workers currently living in the country.

Creating a path to “earned citizenship” is a bipartisan solution to the problem, said Bishop, and is an idea which has received backing from Senator John McCain and former President George Bush, Jr. After the forum, Thiele added that this policy of “earned citizenship” would make undocumented workers pay back taxes and other various fines.

There were many people in the audience, however, who criticized this plan saying deportation of all undocumented immigrants was still a viable option. Others said that while the nation waits for a full revision and update of immigration laws, the presence of illegal immigrants creates an economic strain on local residents.

One Hampton Bays resident, who is also a contractor, said he is continually outbid on projects because he uses legal labor, while, he added, other contractors employ undocumented laborers for less pay.

“A lot of people are very angry,” said Ronald Lawandowski, the director of the Patriots Border Alliance for Suffolk County.

However, other attendees, like Sag Harbor lawyer Bridget Fleming, wished this anger was tempered with words of compassion.

“There is no doubt that there is a group of people who are very angry, but I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. [Almost] every single one of those people [in that room] comes from an immigrant family, who were faced with identical challenges when they first arrived [to this country] … The solution to deport everyone is impossible,” said Fleming.

Fleming said she attended the meeting to learn how to inspire cultural acceptance in the Sag Harbor community, in order to avoid tragic situations like the murder of Marcello Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, in Patchogue this past November.

“I want to make sure that doesn’t happen in our school … Cultivating compassion is the only way we can create a safe, happy and prosperous community,” added Fleming.

Thiele reported that the forum on Friday will be one of many to come. He said the principal goal of the forums was to not only facilitate a dialogue, but to also educate the public on the key facts surrounding immigration and immigration policies.

“Obviously holding one forum in two hours, we are only able to scratch the surface of the issue … It will not be just one meeting [though], but a long process of getting information out there,” he said. “Through conversation and discussion, I do think the larger community can start to reach some kind of consensus.”

He added that in the future, the panels might devote a whole forum on one key issue, such as health care or the economics of immigration. According to Thiele, it is also imperative to discuss issues surrounding immigration today, before tensions between the various groups flare up tomorrow.

“The underlying issues that come with immigration are very much ingrained into the East End community,” said Thiele. “[Immigration] is an issue we will be confronted with for a long time.”

Above: A Southampton Town resident voiced his concerns over immigration at the immigration forum hosted by Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Congressman Tim Bishop. 

Tweak Energy Code

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In late July the town of Southampton adopted some of the strictest energy standards in both New York State and the country concerning construction of new buildings and swimming pools. However the adoption of the code carried a caveat that certain aspects still needed some “tweaking.”
At the heart of the law is the requirement that any new or substantially reconstructed dwelling reach certain Home Energy Rating Scores (HERS) based on the size of the buildings — the larger the building the higher the rating. The law also requires all new swimming pools to be heated primarily by solar electricity.
After meetings with various representatives from the business community, the town’s green committee has agreed to a number of changes in the law and a resolution sponsored by councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst established a public hearing on September 9 to consider them. Among the changes are a definition of a solar heating system, the ability for owners of swimming pools on small lots to be granted exceptions from the solar heating requirement, giving the town’s chief building inspector Michael Benincasa sole authority to decide who gets such an exception and allowing a waiver from the law for historic structures.
Another public hearing will also be held on the same date to discuss whether or not to extend the effective date of the code from October 1 to January 1, 2009. Councilwoman Nancy Graboski sponsored that resolution and when the code was originally adopted spoke out against the October 1 effective date.
We’re supporting two slightly different resolutions,” said Throne-Holst. “They’re similar in gist and the only difference is the implementation dates. [Graboski] would like to see the implementation date moved from October 1 to January 1 for all of the requirements.”
Throne-Holst’s resolution makes one exception in terms of the effective date and that has to do with builders obtaining the HERS rating. Due to the small number of HERS raters on the East End, Throne-Holst’s resolution allows a builder to hold off on obtaining the rating until the first of the year.
“That was something we did in response to both the architects and building community who were asking for a little bit of respite,” she said.
As for Graboski’s resolution, Throne-Holst said moving the implementation date to January 1 for all aspects of the law would be a bad idea on a number of levels. She said Benincasa has already told her he’s seeing a spike in applicants attempting to sneak in before the code goes into effect.
“Our concern, which has been the history here when new codes [are adopted], is that [builders and developers] scramble to get in under the radar,” said Throne-Holst.
She said if the date is extended to January 1, there’s a distinct possibility a number of large homes will be able to sneak in and forego the energy saving requirements. And it’s the large homes, according to Throne-Holst, that the town is most worried about.
She also mentioned the possibility that if the date is extended, the law would be susceptible to people seeking to “water it down” so much so it could lose its original intent.
“If this does extend to January 1, we keep ourselves open to all attempts to water this down,” she said. “In the end we could see a very good piece of legislation, that the board voted four to one to support, get watered down to where it no longer [serves its intended purpose].”
She said she understood there would always be resistance to change, but that “the intent of the law is very good” and benefits the entire community. She pointed out that the law comes on the heels of the town’s yearlong battle with the Long Island Power Authority over their new transmission line, in addition to the rising energy prices and global warming. She also pointed out that Southampton, while their law is by far the strictest, is not the first town to institute green building standards. There are eight other towns on Long Island with similar laws.

Photo: Supervisor Linda Kabot and councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst